At least three bishops resigned amid controversy –

Pope Francis started purging top figures in Chile’s Catholic Church on Monday over a series of sex abuse scandals and cover-ups, starting with accepting the resignations of three bishops.

Francis had accepted the resignations of Bishop Juan Barros, Bishop Gonzalo Duarte and Bishop Cristian Caro, according to a Vatican statement.

At least 30 other bishops also offered to tender their resignations over their failure to protect Chile’s children from sex abusers within the Church.

“We have put our positions in the hands of the Holy Father and will leave it to him to decide freely for each of us,” they said in a letter in May.

“We want to ask forgiveness for the pain caused to the victims, to the pope, to God’s people and to our country for the serious errors and omissions we have committed.”

One of Barros’ critics praised Francis removing Barro from power, adding that this was the “beginning of the end of this culture of abuse and cover-up in the Church.”

The development is extraordinary given Francis had condemned the abuse victims earlier this year, saying that until he saw proof of sexual misconduct, he would assume accusers were slandering the Church.

He has since admitted his “grave errors in judgment” in criticizing the victims, and even invited them to Rome to beg for their forgiveness.

“For my part, I recognize and so I want it to be faithfully transmitted that I have incurred grave mistakes of judgment and perception of the situation, especially due to the lack of truthful and balanced information,” Francis wrote in April.

“From now on I ask forgiveness of all those I offended and I hope to be able to do it personally in the coming weeks.”